Access all areas as Winx meets her adoring fans in surreal dawn workout
David Jennings makes an early start at Moonee Valley to see the wondermare
The realisation dawned while checking whether the parking zone a few streets away from Moonee Valley racecourse required a ticket. Payment was only needed from 9am onwards. It was 5.47am yet a steady flow of fans were already traipsing through the turnstiles. There was already a surreal feel to the occasion.
Who plans a party so early of a weekday morning and expects a crowd to come? The most fashionable female in world racing right now, that's who.
We are all aware of Winx back home, but her popularity is underplayed. Over here she is no longer equine, she is eternal. And what pours petrol on to this blazing fire of fame is that everyone can be her friend.
Winx is not part of an exclusive club. She is not shielded from society. She is allowed out to play.
There is no cover charge this particular morning at Moonee Valley. There is hot coffee for anybody who needs warming up. Every cup is free. There are egg and bacon rolls to be eaten too, hundreds of them. All free. Those who woke up early and wanted to see Winx are rewarded.
Doug O'Shannessy and his daughter Donna couldn't stay away. Doug has just turned 70 and lives almost half an hour away. Donna will sneak into work late. It is worth the possibility of being caught she says.
"There was no way I was missing a chance to see Winx," says Doug. "I've been coming racing here for the best part of 50 years and she's up there with the best I've ever seen. Tulloch was the best before she came along. Now I'm not sure."
A third Cox Plate success on Saturday might sway his decision but, before that date with destiny, one last workout is required.
The stretching of legs is booked in for 6.25am, but everyone wants to get a glimpse of her backstage first. Camera crews swarm around her stable. Racing.com is here and so too is Channel 7. Winx is now a household name so it is important every house and apartment in Australia gets to see her from the comfort of their sitting rooms.
She looks so much better in the flesh, though. She's wide awake at 6am. She's a morning person. Most of us would squirm at the prospect of being photographed at such an unearthly hour, yet Winx seems to smile at every smartphone that flashes.
She knows. She definitely knows. She knows full well all the fuss is for her. If she is intelligent enough to figure out a way of winning 21 times on the trot, then she must know this whole outing has been organised just for her.
Success on Saturday would mean Winx beating Black Caviar's record of winning 14 Group 1s. She has beaten 159 different horses in her lifetime and 43 of those were Group 1 winners.
She is two from two at Moonee Valley and her 2016 Cox Plate victory was by the biggest winning margin in the history of the race. She is about to come the highest earner in the history of Australian racing too. The stats are sensational and so too are these scenes.
She walks elegantly around the parade ring for almost 20 minutes, more than enough time for everyone to get a good look at her. Hugh Bowman has even put on the famous royal blue silks with the M. He jumps into the driver's seat just after 6.20am and heads for the track. If he looks in his rear-view mirror he will see the crowd scurrying after him.
The rail along the home straight is packed full of people. Some say that's the best view. The stands are not empty either. A weekday meeting in Ireland would crave such crowds and they're held in the middle of the day.
A hush descends over Moonee Valley as Bowman goes through the gears. Winx swings for home in fifth and soon switches to sixth. She scorches the turf and seems to be moving better than ever.
What happens now? Do we clap? Do we cheer? Do we clench our fists and hurl them all in the air? No, we do nothing but admire. The silence speaks louder than any cheers ever could.
There are no fair-weather fans here. The fair weather fans are still snoozing. These are the hardcore fans who are just happy to be a part of the fairytale.
It is time for Chris Waller to be interviewed. Anybody can watch. Anybody can listen in. Anybody can ask a question. They come thick and fast and every one is answered with respect.
"It is a huge privilege to be a part of something so special," says Waller. "I like most sporting people have heroes in sport and I have heroes in racing too and for Winx to be regarded as a hero by some people is pretty special. I feel very privileged".
We move upstairs for the Breakfast With The Best function. A buffet breakfast is scoffed before the final fields and barrier draws for the Cox and Manikato Stakes begin. Winx faces eight and gets stall six.
You sense she could get stall 26 and it wouldn't make any difference.
Bowman, who speaks on stage with Kerrin McEvoy, is taking nothing for granted.
"I will treat each and every one of my rivals with the respect they deserve. They are all very good horses, but the reality is that I will try to stay out of trouble. She feels really good. I'm certainly feeling more comfortable about Saturday after this morning," Bowman says.
So are we, Hugh. Breakfast With The Best was never so aptly named.